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Midnight Special (2016) [Blu-Ray]

midnightspecialblu“There’s a star man waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds…”

Jeff Nichols’ science fiction thriller owes a lot to John Carpenter’s “Starman,” mainly because he aspires to achieve the same exploration of humanity with his own film that also speaks very heavily about our own society. Right down the truly excellent score by David Wingo, “Midnight Special” feels like new wave John Carpenter, as it’s an ode to the classic seventies and eighties science fiction films that teams family against impossible odds. This time, it’s a young boy named Alton who is imbued with amazing and enigmatic powers that has made him something of a martyr for a religious cult.

Born under mysterious circumstances, Alton became the figure of worship for a relentless cult, and is perceived as an omen of a higher power making its way to Earth. His dad Roy and best friend Lucas break him out and seek to re-unite him with his mother, all the while trying to figure out why Alton is on Earth and what his ultimate purpose is. Like “Starman” and “E.T.” Roy, Lucas, and Alton find themselves evading the government and local law enforcement, all the while trying to also side step their temptations to return to the comfort of their cult. With two of their members on the hunt for Alton to bring him back to their clutches, the quest to help Alton becomes more harrowing and deadlier by the hour.

“Midnight Special” is a beautiful ode to the science fiction of yesteryear that also obtains its own substance and complex ideas about our own world and reality. Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton are rather superb as two men with their own goals to save Alton who aren’t always on the same page. Shannon as father Roy will do anything to save Alton, even if it means gunning down a highway ranger, while Edgerton as Paul is very strategic and much more rational. Alton is a very unusual and mysterious being who begins drawing just about everything to him, and becomes this walking magnet metaphorically and literally.

The idea of what Alton could represent becomes gradually more intriguing the more Roy and Paul fight to get him to safety. Once Kirsten Dunst is introduced as Alton’s mother and ex-cult member, there’s much more comprehension on what his presence means. Once Nichols has the opportunity to explain Alton to the audience, much of what “Midnight Special” is comes full circle to represent something so much more complex and insightful. Nichols doesn’t opt wholly for a cinematic tribute, as he also realizes that there’s some interpretation to be gained. “Midnight Special” is a surprisingly transcendent science fiction tale about humanity and our state of being. Jeff Nichols’ drama is a bonafide gem, and one that deserves to be appreciated and studied.

The Blu-Ray release for “Midnight Special” comes with a five minute segment called “Origins” about the inspiration for the film, and the central themes, along with interviews from the cast. Finally, there’s the twelve minute multi-chapter “The Unseen World” which focuses on the multiple characters and their arcs, including Roy, Lucas, mom Sarah, Alton, and NSA agent Sevier, as played by Adam Driver.

 

My Boyfriend’s Back (1993) [Blu-Ray]

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Say what you want about Bob Balaban’s horror comedy “My Boyfriend’s Back,” but it’s one of the more pleasant and twisted films to ever come out of the nineties. This was a decade where horror almost died, and what horror there was was deadly serious. “My Boyfriend’s Back” is a funny and sometimes demented take on acceptance with Andrew Lowery giving a bang up performance as Johnny Dingle. Dingle is a love starved high schooler who has the deepest affections for his lifelong love Missy McCloud. To win her heart, he stages a fake grocery store robbery to save her, but things go awry when an actual robbery ensues, and Johnny is murdered. Mysteriously, he comes back from the dead and is told that he can lurk around, but only in the confines of the town cemetery.

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Monsters (2015)

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Steve Desmond’s short horror film “Monsters” is kind of briliant in that you know it’s going somewhere, and you thankfully want to see where. Desmond’s premise is pretty unique, as we meet a normal family that have holed up in an underground bunker during what is apparently the apocalypse. Despite their youngest daughter Jenn insisting she can scavenge in the world above alongside her big brother and parents, she’s forbidden from ever stepping outside and kept inside to keep herself distracted.

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The Martian (2015)

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It’s been quite a while since director Ridley Scott brought a film so rich and entertaining to the big screen and it’s a thrill to see Scott bring audiences what is one of the more riveting tales of a castaway trying to survive in the wilderness. Adapted from the novel, Scott delivers a truly compelling drama about lone astronaut Mark Watney left stranded on Mars, who spends his time trying to survive and build his own ecosystem in a harsh alien world incapable of supporting life. What’s most exceptional about “The Martian,” is that it tells the tale of a very motivated hero who spends all of his time trying to solve his problems and very little of it moping around and fearing death.

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Martyrs (2016)

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Pascal Laugier’s 2008 “Martyrs” was a grueling experience that masked blatant misogyny and torture as a pseudo-intellectual transcendental tale about the afterlife and the pressing question about where we go when we die. Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake of “Martyrs” is not only a pointless exercise in futility, but it dodges any and all attempts to improve on the goofy ideas about spirituality by mostly dodging them. By dodging the torture and pegging this as cheap exploitation, and alternately dismissing the ideas about the afterlife and transforming this in to a spiritual horror film, it effectively renders itself pretty damn pointless and dull.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

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Ethan Hunt is no mere agent. He’s a force of nature that keeps pushing himself to the brink of imminent death every single time we meet him. Last time he hung on the side of a high rise, and this time he hangs along the side of a flying aircraft. Not to mention he merely drowns in one of the many close call operations he and the disbanded IMF commit towards. Tom Cruise lends the character an intensity and bug eyed gutsiness that make him a hero you want to root for, and someone you most definitely want on your side at all times. Hunt has met his match this time with the evil Lane (Sam Harris), a leader of a rising organization called the Syndicate, who is always one step ahead of Hunt, while sidekick Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) displays an enigmatic aura that makes Hunt uncertain if she’s friend or foe.

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

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It’s nice to see director Brad Bird inject a new sense of excitement and novelty in to the “Mission Impossible” movie series, as it now embraces its episodic origins to completely reboot the epic story of Ethan Hunt. After the pretty good third outing, “Ghost Protocol” sports an entirely different atmosphere, where the team from the IMF are still out and lurking about, while Ethan Hunt has become a pariah, now jailed in a Russian prison. After Simon Pegg’s character Benji stages a caper to free Ethan from prison, Ethan discovers that the world must be in dire trouble if he’s being turned to for help.

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Mortdecai (2015)

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Johnny Depp has never been one to be defined as a comedy genius of any sort, and it’s pretty telling of that fact when the one gag he has to ride on throughout “Mortdecai” is his mustache and how it twirls. That’s basically the defining comedic element of Mortdecai. He’s painfully proud of his mustache despite the obvious disgust by his loving wife, and he takes great pride of flashing it around. He even gleams proudly when he finds himself in America packed in to an elevator with men donning mustaches and beards of their own. That’s what counts as comedy in the painfully unfunny “Mortdecai.”

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